October 2001, just a month after the 9/11 attacks and dead smack in the middle of a retaliatory strike against Afghanistan, was not a particularly great time to make ironic jokes about U.S. foreign policy. But somehow those who saw David Rees' Internet cartoon Get Your War On were more interested in laughing their asses off than in labeling him unpatriotic.
How did Rees escape the drubbing received by anti-war celebs like Bill Maher and Natalie Maines? Perhaps it's because Rees' work is so strange that it has become popular mostly among the liberal lunatic fringe. It's almost a misnomer to call him a "comic artist," because Rees can't draw a lick. Instead, his strips combine clip art -- those bland copyright-free images generally found in corporate brochures -- with hysterical, profanity-laden commentary on current events. Rees became fascinated with clip art while at a tedious temp job, and began using the drawings to illustrate the comics he'd always wanted to produce. At first he wasted the long work hours creating cartoons about karate and filing. But when the easy-to-parody Afghan conflict came along, Rees knew he'd found himself a fresh target. The paperback book of War is now in its third printing, with all proceeds donated to Adopt-a-Minefield, and Rees has transformed himself from an underemployed wage slave into a Rolling Stone cartoonist.
Of late, however, Rees' attention has been shifting away from politics and toward his old passions. His new collection, My Fighting Technique Is Unstoppable, uses the same old clip art to tell surreal and very funny stories about argumentative martial arts masters. He discusses and signs Fighting at 7 p.m. at the Booksmith, 1644 Haight (at Cole), S.F. Admission is free; call 863-8688 or visit www.booksmith.com.
-- Joyce Slaton
Ornament Is Crime
The perfect age to first experience serious minimalist art is 12. At that age, the brain has an innate appreciation for shapes in space, and hopefully said gray matter hasn't picked up any shame about gawking at cool stuff yet. "Primary Matters: The Minimalist Sensibility, 1959 to the Present" is therefore the ideal take-your-niece-to-the-museum show. For the kids (and for older folks whose minds are young), the exhibition offers the spare beauty of Richard Serra's metalwork, Frank Stella's stripes, and Carlos Mollura's plastic inflatables, among many others. The exhibit opens today at 11 a.m. (and continues through Jan. 11) at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art, 151 Third St. (at Mission), S.F. Admission is free-$10; call 357-4000 or visit www.sfmoma.org.
-- Hiya Swanhuyser
Look Both Ways
Back home in upstate New York, art walks were a springtime opportunity for watercolor and acrylic hobbyists to display their impeccably academic still-life and landscape masterpieces. Oddly enough, it never occurred to them to create installations based on milk and cookies, paint with rubber, or reconstruct clothing brought in by walk participants. Here in the big city, we have "Crosswalks," at which 12 Mission District boutiques host a mix of contemporary visual art, including the exhibits described above. Venues include Adobe Books (3166 16th St.), Needles and Pens (483 14th St.), and Pond (324 14th St.). Maps are provided at noon at the aforementioned locations and nine others. Admission is free; visit www.geocities.com/elessing1/crosswalks.html.
-- Will Simmons
Such a Player
Educated people may pride themselves on their ability to discuss subjects other than Hollywood, but when Michael Tolkin is taking questions, why should they? Tolkin, novelist and screenwriter of The Player -- perhaps the fiercest film-biz satire ever to dupe its targets into collusion -- launches the latest issue of All-Story magazine tonight with a reading of a new tale. "The Return of the Player" reanimates movie executive Griffin Mill, who "like a eunuch referee at an orgy," Tolkin writes, "was only an opinion at the bedside of necessity." The reading begins at 6 p.m. at Cafe Niebaum-Coppola, 916 Kearny (at Columbus), S.F. Admission is free; call 788-7500 or visit www.all-story.com.
-- Jonathan Kiefer